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Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Smuggler's Blues;" A Long Ride To Telluride

Last Dollar Road is the olden days supply route between Ouray and Telluride; it goes around the biggest mountains so as not to go over. It's a wanderer, this road, like you and me, twisting through groves of autumnal aspen that shimmer with gold coin leaves. Those coins eventually succumb to breeze, paving Last Dollar's dirt and rock under layer upon layer of fall medallions. On a cloudless Indian Summer day, Leonard and I pedaled through seductive rolling fields... "leaves of grass..." solar-splashed meadows that can tempt a mountain biker off the wedge between his legs for a little snack-n-nap in the warm sun.

But napping in the sun doesn't get one up and over a 10,600 foot mountain pass and down to Smuggler's Brewery in Telluride, does it? Nope, it doesn't put a single solitary frothy headed, sweaty glassed, hopped to perfection Road Rash Ale in ones parched gullet. Only sitting one's tired ass back on his saddle, and cranking up an aspen-shawdowed backroad in gears lower than a snake will land you in front of an adult beverage and a burger bigger than your mother-in-law's mouth. That's the power of a good brew, my friends, second only to love. 

We cheated, Marathon Man Leonard and I... loaded our bikes onto the back of his Jeep and drove to Ridgway's town park to begin our long ride to Telluride. It only saved ten down hill miles and 30 minutes, but it was time my butt would be thanking me for... five hours later. Our legs felt flat, inching up out of Ridgway, I guess because we didn't have common sense enough to rest them the day before. Leonard went on a ten mile run, while I pumped hand weights on a hike up Camp Bird road. So we were summarily dusted by several middle aged gals on road bikes pedaling up the paved ascent to Dallas Divide... as in about like we were standing still. I wanted to place blame, the headwind... old age... my heavy pack... knobby tires... sunspots! But I kept excuses to myself and simply wished the show offs a good day (sigh).

I finally caught up with Leonard a mile and a half on the other side of Dallas Divide... peeing under cover of willow bushes on Last Dollar Road. Good riddance to pavement, diesel trucks, and biker haters that lay on their horns like, "how dare you ride on my shoulder!" WTF?  Some people just need some-thing to hate. The reality is, they probably hate themselves, their life and their wife... and take it out on who ever is handy. It's why mean people should not be allowed to have dogs.

Traffic was light and slow on Last Dollar Road... it kept shrinking out from under us until it was only two tracks. And it steepened, of course. Our weary legs had us discussing a turnaround, a free fall back to Town Park... relaxing under the shade of hundred year old cottonwood trees, licking ice cream and watching pretty girls play tennis. But how to explain that to Bobbie? She was doing sag wagon duty in Sue Bee, waiting somewhere up the road in case we needed something, like a ride, or CPR

I've been noticing, lately, how it seems to help Leonard... when he's grunting out a long steep hill... to talk to cows, scream, holler, sing, moan, groan... etc; a waste of precious oxygen to me, but entertaining nonetheless. 

We met up with Bobbie for lunch in a cow-pattied open meadow near the stunted growth edge of an aspen forest... a place swallowed in parks bigger than Rhode Island. Maybe not the most aromatic picnic spot, but hey, this is the west; ranchers and their cows have rights of way. Bobbie was fighting a cold, else we'd have no sag wagon to come to our rescue. I knew she would rather be riding than driving, but doing this sure beat staying home. Onward.

We could see our saddle objective... up where light and cheerful aspen groves gave way to a plague of dark forest spruce. Last Dollar serpentined back and forth, inching it's way up, taking the long way and it's good ole time. We paused pre-summit for one last overlook. Skies were hazed from fires up north. It seemed so un-fall like; it's usually crisp and clear as a bell in September and October. I did the best I could with photos... cropping out midday glare and smokey sky.

Finally, the pass, 10,600 feet, a wide open view of Whipple Mountain, Telluride's ski slopes and a dazzling montage of aspen in full autumn bloom. Knowing my work was done, I did a quick disc brake adjustment. Now for the fun... all downhill from here to beer. A free-wheeling, adrenalized free fall decent to Smuggler's Brew Pub in T—Town. Giddy-up, 29'er! 



  1. After that ride you guys deserve at least two of those brews. My legs and lungs hurt just reading about it. But again, those beautiful pictures.

  2. I'd rather drive or walk, but the brew and burger sounds great.

    Our colors are looking about the same.

  3. What a ride! Picture beautiful as usual. Reminded me of a time when I was watching the Ironhorse Race. Young man went by singing at the top of his lungs, "The Hills are alive with the sound of music."

    Bless him, I laughed and said to myself.

  4. I think you should consider publishing a 12 month calendar of your photos and sell it in Ouray and vicinity. They are spectacular and worthy of large glossy calendar prints.

  5. Jim and Sandie,
    We did earn our burgers and brews... and bobbie was our designated driver :))

    I'll bet your nights are cooling off too, and maybe the tourists. We know how that feels...

    Hobo Pals,
    It's that endorphin euphoria one gets when they approach sustained maximum physical output... the "runners high." It's a wonderful drug :))

    We make a calendar every Christmas, as a gift for family and friends. We've thought about offering one for readers, but the last thing we want is a bunch of boxes of last years calendars laying around in our garage. Maybe a pre-order would help prevent that... They are beautiful tho.

  6. Wow, I was really impressed and wondering how you were going to do that long ride back home after burgers and beer. But then there was Bobbie to the rescue! Great story and photos, as usual.

  7. Gumo, Mark doesn't brag lightly. They are beautiful. I've been the recipient of his calendar when he ran out of relatives. :-) Too bad I don't have a wall on which to hang the calendar. :-)

  8. Gayle,
    I'd be looking for a motel. No way could I ride back the same day... if fact, I got there on fumes. Bobbie made that ride possible; we owe her one. Looks like you are getting into fall, too.
    PS You won't believe who else found and bought a Lazy Daze classic... Don't know if it's public information yet so I won't give it away. I can tell you they named it Old Blue :)) You guys really started a trend...

    Wanderin' Lloyd,
    Thanks... but no walls to hang it on? My calendar sits in a drawer (sniff)?

  9. Great photos as always, Mark. I always feel like I've had a big workout after reading about your rides, maybe I should do a real workout one of these days! Scamping around in "Old Blue"...

  10. Anon "Scampers,"
    Good thing we're not entrusted with National Security Matters :))

  11. Well it looks like that last anonymous comment answered the "Old Blue" question. We really did start something! Of course what is even funnier is that none of you even looked inside our Lazy Daze when we were there.

  12. Jim and Gayle,
    And we were not even actively searching for a Lazy Daze, or any other Motorhome :)) Sometimes things just fall out of the "sky."
    It's all good...

  13. Geeze... how far is it to Telluride? fifty miles or so? I do that 'fore breakfast!

    Hell... I just got back from ridin' a bike 2012 miles with a whole lot of High passes...

    'course... that 113 cubic inches I was sittin' on helped a lil' bit! ;)

    I always figured that's why the Boss lernt some smart guy to bolt a motor on a bicycle... and I got a nice wide cushy gel seat too, not one of those butt torturin' contraptions you pedalin' fellas with your masochistic pursuits abuse yourselves with! :))

    Now, don't go tellin' me about it keepin' you healthy with all the exercise neither! You know how tough it is to hang onto a naked motorcycle at 85 mph and fightin' to keep your knees from flappin' in the wind at the same time... all day long?!! :))

  14. CowBoy Brian,
    A motor is cheating! But you are correct about the "butt." I'm trying out a spring loaded seat post right now... I think I'm still going to need some of that gel :))
    Thanks, mark.


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